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On one side of Medford square.

The Register has in previous issues alluded to the modernizing of Medford square. There is, however, one side that changes but little. It still has the substantial dwelling and store quarters erected at the close of the Revolution by Jonathan Porter, first occupied by him, next by his son George Washington Porter, and is still owned by one of his descendants. By courtesy of the present occupant, the Medford Publishing Company, a view of it is given in our frontispiece. This view is reproduced from a daguerreotype taken about midway in its history, (i.e., in the early fifties), by Wilkinson, the Medford artist who was sometime housed therein. The building stands upon the site of the ‘Royal Oak Tavern’ of colonial days, which stood on or very near the site of the ‘ferme-house’ erected by Cradock's men in 1630. At the time of taking this view but few changes had been made in the building, those made needful by the erection of the brick structure which had been built against its southern end. The roof was extended against the higher brick wall and an entrance and staircase made beneath, at present 6 Main street. The grade of Main street had been raised about two feet, the big willow tree removed, and the stone pillar (called Howe's folly) across the street by the town hall shows in the view. Now, after about a hundred and thirty years, this substantial old house, one of the best in the Medford of its time, takes on a new lease of life by its housing of the ‘art preservative.’ Its first owner was the tavern keeper in the years that preceded and during the Revolution. The old sign with the emblems of royalty and the royal motto Dieu et mon droit, suffered at the hands of the [p. 93] minute-men as they came back from Lexington, and was taken down. That the tavern ceased to be the ‘Royal Oak’ is shown by a letter, still preserved, written by Rogers, the New HampshireRanger’ in 1775 from ‘Porter's tavern in Medford.’ Within a few weeks one of his descendants has been here in Medford to see the location and also the Royall house, and to tread over the route taken by her ancestor.

After the war, which seems to have left Porter in better circumstances than it did others, as shown by the erection of this house, he engaged in a general merchandise business which included the necessaries of life, ‘West India Goods and Groceries.’ So did his son, and the long line of their successors down to date. It is also noticeable that in the newer building adjoining, the present occupant also succeeds several others in the same line as his own. Inspection of the view will show that at the other end, about a dozen feet have been removed in the widening of old Ship street. At that time the artistic front door, the big chimney and capacious fireplaces of the Porter residence were removed, and the living rooms devoted to business,—drugstore, apothecary-shop, pharmacy—such was the evolution, but of this some other can speak or write with certainty.

On the second floor were offices of various Medford lawyers, and for many years the daguerrean rooms of Wilkinson and later Treadwell. Amos B. Morss had there his printing office and ventured on the publication of the Chronicle, and there also George W. Stetson of the Leader had his editorial sanctum. Fraternal organizations have found quarters there, and for a year and a half the Historical Society a temporary dwelling place. Real estate and intelligence offices, and lastly the modern invention of a vacuum cleaner seems to have been the last word in the long line of uses to which this part of the Porter house has been put. Then after a vacuum (or vacancy rather) for about a year with adverse conditons—war or otherwise—below, the Medford Publishing Company has taken the old [p. 94] house and in its first issue of the Mercury, there printed, gave an account of its history. Its existence covers the period of constitutional government of our country. All our presidential campaigns, our wars and our politics have there been discussed. Past its old walls the Medford men of 1861, of 1898 and 1918 have marched away, the latter to help do away with the royal motto that so recently was ‘Meinself und Gott.’ It was fitting that from out these old walls the following issue of the Mercury should send out the story of how Medford received the news of their success and of the retirement of the senior partner on November 11th, and how it celebrated Victory Day.

Excepting the removal of the front door and the introduction of plate glass, the general appearance of the old Porter house has changed but little. Its builders did their work well, as time has proved. They had none of the modern appliances with which to work; a steam saw or planing mill was then unknown. All its timbers were hewn and its nails hand-made. It was forty-three years old when the stately town hall, that for eighty years worthily served municipal and social interests, was built. Other and more pretentious buildings have arisen nearby, some of them now gone, others in decadence. With its present use the old Porter house bids fair to remain for years to come, an unchanging landmark on one side of Medford square.

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